McLeish: I won't shield players

Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish will demand a big improvement from his players next season after effectively making sure of avoiding relegation from the Barclays Premier League with one game remaining.

McLeish can point to a shortage of experience, a lengthy injury list, blooding too many youngsters and having to drastically reduce the wage bill as mitigating circumstances.

But the former Birmingham boss will still expect better during 2012/13, and he said: "I have taken a lot of weight on my shoulders this season. I was happy to take pressure off the players. I am not going to again next season though. They had better get their finger out."

He continued: "We are assessing next season. It's all been ongoing. We've been assessing it every single week. We've got to start putting a plan of action in place.

"Our early-season form wasn't too bad but, since the New Year, we've had problems to contend with injury-wise.

"To lose two of your most experienced players (Darren Bent and Richard Dunne) for such a long time will hurt any team."

McLeish has struggled to win over the Villa fans and there were again calls for his sacking in some quarters after Sunday's 1-1 with Harry Redknapp's Tottenham side.

But he said: "I think the Villa fans in general have been excellent. I met some nice people at the end-of-season dinner the other night. I felt the guys I met were genuine, they knew what I was working with. If I get that kind of understanding, then great."

McLeish added: "I would certainly look to be strengthening the squad for next season. This season we have taken the plunge into the reduction of wages. It's hopefully helped the finances a little bit.

"It has put us through the mill, no doubt about it, but we're planning and we can rise. At clubs I've worked with before, with proper planning, we've done well. If I can go through that this season, I will have to have a crack at the big time and try and enhance the quality of the squad. At the end of the day, it's down to the players."